My Five Best Music Events of 2013
As per tradition – that is, I did it last year – it is time for me to look back on the best music experiences I had over the past year. They are not in any “best” order, except for the first one:
– Seeing Leonard Cohen in concert: In a word, exquisite. I have liked his music for a long time, but was quite unprepared for the power and beauty of his performance. At 79, he was dominant on stage for three hours with a 20 minute interval. He sang all his old songs plus plenty of new ones from his latest “Old Ideas” album. His band was stunning, from flamenco-ish guitarist Javier Mas through Hammond organist Neil Larson to back up vocalists Sharon Robinson and England’s Webb Sisters. Best of all was Cohen’s rapport with the audience – he made you feel as if he was glad to be there, glad you were there and that we were all part of something together. We were. One of the best concerts I have ever been to.
– Buying a banjo: This one is very personal. I have wanted to buy a banjo ever since I first tinkered with one around 1968. Something (common sense?) always stopped me until one day this August when I walked into a music tent at a festival and there it was – a beautiful Tonewood backless five string. Can I play it? Of course not – unless you count my three chord E-A-B7 attempt at banjo blues. But it is mine and one day I will learn more. For now though it is fairly good at getting rid of guests who have overstayed their welcome.
– Meeting Richard Thompson, Roy Harper and Wilko Johnson: I started writing and blogging about music a few years ago and it has been building. One of the joys is getting to meet musicians (some of them are a joy, anyway). These three were/are legends in their fields. Thompson had just released “Electric”, the album our very own No Depression has ranked as as No 5 in the Top 50 for 2013. Harper was coming out of semi-retirement with a tour and some new songs (this was before hitting the news with a sex charge).Dr Feelgood’s Johnson had just announced he was dying of pancreatic cancer and was inspiring people by the way he was handling it. (Against expectations, he is still with us in 2014).
– Discovering my local music scene: I live in Henley-on-Thames, a country market town near enough to London for commuters (like me). George Harrison and Dusty Springfield lived here. But most of the big events are a bit on the posh side for my liking – the Royal Regatta is no longer about rowing and I refuse to hang around in suit and/or tuxedo at the Henley Festival. But this year saw the arrival of the Hideaway Festival (with lots of Americana, folk, reggae and a bit of punk) and the Henley Jazz and Blues Festival (which was essentially a week-long pub crawl to listen to music. More please.
– Watching Alice Cooper work his magic: A strange one this, but I have written about how the unexpected is often the best in music. Cooper was heading the bill on one of the nights at the annual Cropredy Festival. I was not terribly interested, but he reached out from the stage and physically dragged me into his world. What a showman! Highlight for me was his tribute to dead musical “friends” – Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Keith Moon – with Break On Through (To The Other Side), Foxy Lady, Revolution and My Generation. Who knew?
I hope 2014 offers as much if not more for all of you.